Ross Littell for Matteo Grassi Armchairs in Red Leather and Steel
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Ross Littell for Matteo Grassi, armchairs, leather, steel, Italy, 1980s
These two red leather chairs are designed by the American designer Ross Littell (1924-2000) for Matteo Grassi. Littell came up with this design during his stay in Italy. The leather of these oragnic chairs are made of the highest quality made by the company Matteo Grassi, which acquires charm and beauty as it ages. The chairs have an elegant appearance because of the wing like appearance of the armrests and is synonyms to Tito Agnoli’s armchair ‘Korium’. That is no coincidence because both worked for the same manufacturer. The steel frame creates this transparent and minimalistic look.
The Grassi family – Matteo and his wife, and later on, his sons – opened a workshop in 1880 in a small village called Mariano Comense, located in northern Italy. They were specialized in crafting products for horses. At the end of the Second World War, the region, where the family company was located, developed into one of the liveliest areas for furniture making in Italy. From the 1950s to the ‘70s, the family business took on a different road and went from mostly horse equipment to furniture. It was a huge success. The family extended their interest in design as they made contact with various designers and architects. Eventually, in 1978, the company ‘Matteograssi’ is launched with their own line of furniture.
According to former chief curator for architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Ross Littell (1924-2000) was “one of the key designers during what was a golden moment for American design.’’ He is an internationally acclaimed designer of furniture and textiles in New York City and Europe. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Littell studied at the Art Center School in Los Angeles (now Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California). After his service in World War Two, he entered Pratt Institute in New York, the place where he met William Katavolos (1924-2020) and Douglas Kelley. The three men formed a design studio in 1949, which can be considered part of the so-called ‘Good Design’ movement of the 1950s: producing furniture in a minimalistic style and usually rendering in lightweight materials. Together they produced a line of furniture called Laverne Originals. Their ‘T-chair’ became one of the most appreciated designs of their time.
Littell opened his own studio in 1956 and the following year he studied the microscopic structure of natural forms in Italy, which inspired him to design textile patterns derived from mathematical ideas. One of his designs named “Criss-Cross” was incorporated in a collection he produced for Knoll Associates in 1959 and won a citation of merit from the American Institute of Decorators.
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